Friends don’t let friends use Platitudes

I like Wikipedia’s definition of a platitude: “A platitude is a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement, generally directed at quelling social, emotional, or cognitive unease. The word derives from plat, French word for “flat.” Platitudes are geared towards presenting a shallow, unifying wisdom over a difficult topic. However, they are too overused and general to be anything more than undirected statements with ultimately little meaningful contribution towards a solution.”

That pretty much sums it up. They’re really shorthand for telling a person, “I don’t have the time or sensitivity to consider your problem, or to make sense of a situation, so here’s something useless I heard that will make me feel better.” Or, “I’m not very bright but check out what I memorized.” There are any number of platitudes that drive me up the wall, but I thought I’d make a list of my top ten, in no particular order.

1.) “If you don’t like me, that’s your problem, not mine.” Wrong. It’s not my problem. The fact that you think you are universally likable, and that anyone who doesn’t recognize this is obviously daft, is a problem. Universally likable: found treasure, unicorns, functioning organs. Not universally likable: everything else.

2.) “If God brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it.” You self-righteous prick. Would you say this to a rape victim, or to someone who just stuck a needle in their arm? No? Because maybe deep down you know that suggesting God is a sadistic chess player is nonsense? Then cut it out.

3.) “Time heals all wounds.” Sigh. Time passes- it’s not actively involved in anything. Moron.

4.) “It was meant to be.” Well, I suppose if that holds true- everything is technically “meant to be”. Like you gaining 50 pounds, or your partner banging your best friend. It’s no one’s fault really- it was meant to be.

5.) Any statement that involves the word “karma”. Do you not know any successful psychopaths? No one who has gotten away with really bad shit? Or entirely good people who had terrible things happen to them? Trite.

6.) “God doesn’t give you any more than you can handle.” What kind of sociopath do you worship?

7.) “Anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Unless you lost a leg, or a child, or have PTSD. In which case- sorry.

8.) “Everything happens for a reason.” Oi vey. Usually said to someone who has suffered some tremendous loss or tragedy. Probably not topping anyone’s “list of comforting things I’d like to hear from a friend.” Like it was meant to be, difficult to disprove, but entirely useless at best and extremely hurtful at worst.

9.) “Living well is the best revenge.” No- stabbing a person in the head is the best revenge. Or sleeping with their wife. Or setting their car on fire. Or pissing in their kombucha. Living well is great– but it’s not revenge.

10.) “You should have an attitude of gratitude.” Wow. Did you just seriously tell your friend to shut the fuck up, with a smile? Well played! But don’t kid yourself- you just told your friend to shut the fuck up. Smug son-of-a-bitch.

What’s the take-away from this list? The next time you’re faced with an uncomfortable situation and really don’t know what to say, try, “that sucks” or “oh shit- that really sucks” or “can I buy you a piece of pie?” or even “man, wow- um, I really don’t know what to say” all of which imply that you listened but feel you really don’t have an adequate reply. And I guarantee- you will not sound any less wise than rattling off something you read on a t-shirt.

edit

Three Dirty Little Words

There are three dirty little words that I hardly ever hear any more. Every now and then someone dares to utter the phrase, but it’s almost always scandalous. I still thrill at the sound of it (oh baby- say it again) but naturally it would be in bad taste to admit so I generally don’t say anything at all, as is often the case when I can foretell the bad reaction my words will garner. I’ve bitten my tongue so many times over my lifetime that it’s a good quarter inch shorter than when I started. All the same, I find the words escape my own lips with more frequency than should be admitted in polite company. The truth of the matter is that sometimes the only phrase that fits is, “I don’t know”.

For all of the time I spend reading, researching, and listening to news and documentary programming, the fact is that I will never know everything there is to know at a given time. As such- brace yourself- I don’t have an opinion on everything either. I can’t form an opinion on something when I don’t feel that I have all of the information. Which is not to say that I can’t mistakenly believe that I do have all of the information and form an opinion on that basis- but I’m hesitant to state all too much in absolute terms because the fact is that I’m old enough to know that I’ve had very strong opinions earlier in life only to flip 180 degrees and hold an equally strong opinion on the opposite end of the spectrum.

I don’t feel that I’m living in a more educated world today, so it bothers me how conclusive people are in their opinions, which these days generally mean you are on one side of an issue or “the other”- regardless of how complex. Sometimes it’s not even that deep- it’s a matter of picking a side and then agreeing with everything that side presents. That’s often the case with politics, and arguably most topics fall into the political realm these days. You’re on the right or the left, for the environment or for resource exploitation, anti-guns altogether or for arming the world and all it’s little children, for this or against that- but absolutely, unequivocally unmovable. To admit any less would bring shame. Or would it?

Might it engender reasonable conversation if we admitted to not knowing everything? If instead of balking when someone suggested a modification to a long-held belief, or a consideration of broader facts, we actually engaged with each other- wouldn’t we be able to make more informed decisions? If we admitted to not knowing, might we do some further research? Could we break down some of those “us” and “them” barriers if we simply opened our minds to the possibility that we’re not experts on all things at any point in time?

Admittedly, we all have sacred cows. There are certain things that we believe so strongly (if only when we are saying them) that any rebuke feels like a personal attack. We may feel that we’ve given a subject sufficient consideration and come down on the side of “right” so fiercely that an opposing viewpoint can sound like fighting words. Or rather than a call to war, we may simply dismiss our opponent as ignorant- typical of those people (conservatives, liberals, tree huggers, religious nut jobs, fill-in-the-blank). Either way, there is an immediate reaction to shut down the argument. In fact, there is no argument- so and so obviously doesn’t like you, or is an idiot. Times like these you can almost hear the vacuum sealing the mind shut to further discourse.

But how is that progressive, or helpful for that matter? If an argument is solid, it will hold up to scrutiny. And if there are holes to fill, conversation is one way to fill those gaps, or further research is required- and if that doesn’t work perhaps it’s time to revisit the issue altogether. If we are all standing on one side or the other of an issue like some giant Red Rover game the point becomes much more about holding on as tightly as possible than it is about progress or serious contemplation. Brute strength (or in this case obstinance) is the name of the game- so it’s no wonder that yelling matches have taken the place of debate in today’s political realm.

I think we’d all gain a lot from bringing back those three little words and admitting “I don’t know” when it fits. And instead of belittling politicians for the occasional slip up (gasp! he forgot to stick to his talking points!), demanding that more of them engage honestly- which would involve a lot more acknowledgment that they don’t have all the answers. Similarly with each other, and maybe most importantly- expecting it from ourselves. The fact is- you don’t know all there is to know, nor do I, and neither does he, or she.

 

pighead

Did Oilsands Proponents Make Neil Young’s Case Better Than He Did?

My initial reaction to the announcement that Neil Young would be performing a special Canadian tour to raise funds for the legal defense fund for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation was, “right on!” I posted links to the tour dates everywhere that I could. My second reaction to the tour, having heard Neil Young in an interview with Jian Gomeshi was, “oh shit”. Admittedly Neil Young is before my time and I’ve never paid a great deal of attention to him and didn’t know what to expect, but from a public relations standpoint I thought the interview was a huge fail. If the issue was Treaty rights (a very critical, oft underrepresented issue in Canadian media) and the legal defense required to protect those rights it did not feature largely enough in the interview.

 

I often question things in terms of marketing and public relations, no matter my relation to the actual issue. It helps me to understand what is happening, or where something is bound to go, on a deeper level if I can determine how a subject is being framed. And while I may disagree vehemently with a person or body, I am generally impressed by the skill that goes into a good propaganda campaign, or ‘spin’.

 

Take “the oilsands”: the “oilsands” is an industry-generated term used to describe what used to be commonly known as the tarsands by everyone, including industry. At some point, some savvy person(s) must have determined that “tar” has a dirty sound to it, negative connotations all around, but “oil”- well oil sounds like jobs, like energy, like revenues, like an investment. The fact is that neither term is accurate, though tarsands better reflects the look and feel of the stuff. The most accurate term would be bitumen sands. But accuracy doesn’t matter in public relations: oilsands has become the accepted term in most circles, and if you slip up and use the old term (think back to Thomas Mulcair) it must be because you’re anti-energy, anti-revenue, anti-industry, anti-the-free-world. Granted many environmentalists prefer tarsands and use it purposely, but let’s be real- they are bitumen sands. Never mind though- I do appreciate the quality of this particular campaign, as industry has managed to shape language, and that my friends is impressive.

 

But back to Neil… I understand his concern about the bitumen sands development. (For those of you Conservative defenders who refuse to even entertain that side of the argument, do you remember Peter Lougheed? Even he was concerned by the rate of development. It’s not un-Conservative to be pragmatic.) But I felt the interview focused entirely too much on that part of the argument, and on Neil’s own musical and activist history, and entirely too little on Treaty rights and the fact that the First Nations peoples of Canada are having to mount legal defenses that they can hardly afford because our Canadian government is favouring corporate interests over human rights. Treaty rights are a critical issue in Canada. The world has recognized it (it frequently comes up at the UN) but we here at home do not.

 

Neil Young had an excellent opportunity and platform to really drill this point home (excuse the pun) and he missed it, in my opinion. Had he had a handler, she’d have been shaking her head in the hallway. (“Stick to the issue, Neil, don’t make it about you.”) Of course anyone concerned about the environment can understand and relate to the very deep frustration that people just aren’t getting it, and the desire to try one more time to engage the public, and the very real fact that bitumen sands development is directly related to this particular legal challenge facing the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. But the opportunity to really draw attention to the abuse of Treaty rights in Canada was undermined by the hot rhetoric about environmental degradation and in particular the bitumen sands.

 

Afterwards I said to my husband, “I wouldn’t want Neil Young representing me on any issue.” I expected Neil to generate a decent amount of cash for the ACFN, and appreciated that, but I felt the issue of Treaty rights would largely be ignored and forgotten (again) in short order. And then the proponents of the oil and gas industry came out in droves… And so did a great many of the Albertans whose livelihoods depend on that industry, or at least believe that they do (see above and how easily we came to accept the term “oilsands”). Facebook was loaded with anti-Neil and pro-“oilsands” rhetoric, and the arguments were sophomoric at best.

 

“Look at those tour buses” (equivalent to “you do it too- nani nani poo poo”), “records/CDs are petroleum products” (see previous argument), “has-been rocker” (“pooh-head!”), “un-Canadian” (a charge borrowed from American politics, to quash protest by suggesting a person has no right to speak, or is unpatriotic if they take a certain stance on an issue), “doesn’t know what he’s talking about” (in lieu of an actual argument). And on and on it went. I see it’s still going strong this morning with new posts, many linking to the same article about how Neil Young’s entourage buses were left running outside a Calgary news conference.

 

I truly (truly, deeply, sincerely) feel that we would benefit as a society by offering Critical Thinking at the elementary and secondary school level, rather than offering it as an elective in university- but that’s best left for another discussion. What amazed me is that the oil and gas industry and its proponents, or ‘dependents’, is that they generated far more attention for Neil Young, the benefit concerts, and the issues of bitumen sands development and First Nations treaty rights than Neil Young could ever have done on his own, regardless of his rock legend status. It’s been in the news every day, and all over social media, and being talked about amongst friends- it’s everywhere.

 

I still feel that the issue of Treaty rights deserved a lot more attention than it got. But the tour generated much more discussion than I expected, and it delivered on the goods- exceeding fund raising goals. Where Neil Young may have failed to stay on topic, and is not the eloquent speaker one might hope for in a spokesperson, his adversaries spoke volumes for him and kept the conversation going and in the news longer than Neil and all of his supporters could ever have managed on their own. Hopefully, some people will even look further into the issues both of bitumen sands development and Treaty rights.

 

And maybe, just maybe, this bit of an unintended social experiment will lead people to consider their own reactions to criticism of bitumen sands development, and how this relates to Treaty rights. Chances are, if you were among the anti-Neil crowd, you also live in a neighbourhood in which you expect access to clean water, clean air (at least insofar as you don’t have to wear a mask to go outdoors), uncontaminated soil in which to grow your flowers and vegetables and for your children to play in, maybe you even expect to have some say as to what will be built in your area. Perhaps you don’t like the idea of recent parolees living in a halfway house down the street from where you’re raising your family, or you don’t want a homeless shelter one neighbourhood over because “crime may go up”. You’ll probably have a say in that. Alberta has already restricted pesticide use that might harm your health- and that’s a good thing.

 

But if you were Native and living on traditional Native land, you wouldn’t have the same luxury of deciding what is acceptable or not. Not if it interfered with corporate interests. And that’s worth looking at, isn’t it? Because I don’t think that any of us (read: non-Native peoples) would consider that fair. As a matter of fact, it’s not even legal. But it’s happening. And you’re a part of it. Every time that you defend your “way of life” as having more importance, more weight, than our Native brothers and sisters you contribute to the social license this government feels it has to trample on the rights of Native peoples to equality. (And “ignoring” the Treaty rights aspect of the discussion does not make a person less guilty.)

 

Any time that an issue causes us to become immediately defensive, it’s worth examining. I get worrying that your lifestyle may be impacted. I get it. It makes sense. But by the same token, I don’t think that I have the right to demand someone else sacrifice their health, or ability to provide for their family, or their personal safety in order to preserve my lifestyle. That would imply that I somehow feel of greater importance, or deserving of “extra” rights. If my lifestyle impacts yours, or yours impacts mine, I think we need to have a very real discussion. And that’s what First Nations peoples across this country are asking for- a discussion, a say in their future. I believe they’re entitled to that. How can we ever move towards reconciliation if we refuse to reconcile our ways? There will come a time when the First Nations peoples of Canada do not have to mount a legal defense in order to engage in a meaningful discussion. How long do we intend to prolong that day, and to what end?

Canada Provides Arms to Repressive Regime

(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

(AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

Were you aware that our (Canadian) Foreign Minister John Baird visited Bahrain not once but twice this year? And that we are selling arms and ammunition to Bahrain? I don’t exactly have my head in the sand. I listen to a lot of newscasts, but this came as a surprise to me when (oh-so-briefly) mentioned on CBC’s Power and Politics at the end of 2013. I did a bit of follow-up research and the story has been reported on but apparently it’s just not headline material.

While 2013 figures are not publicly available, we went from zero sales in 2011 (good) to $250,000 in 2012 (entering WTF territory). While Baird is very fond of trotting out the, “we won’t go along to get along” line when it suits his needs it is apparently completely untrue when economic and/or political ties are at issue. Not only notably silent on this issue on his April visit, but most recently at the Manama dialogue in December when he did remember to criticize Iran for its human rights record, but was entirely silent about Bahrain’s repressive regime.

The Canadian government’s own site states: While Canada’s commercial relationship with Bahrain is modest, there are opportunities for growth. Canada concluded negotiations on Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA) with Bahrain in January 2010. Bahrain is also part of the Gulf Cooperation Council area, which is considered a priority market for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. (Note: the site has not been updated to include more recent activity, including arms sales.) Under it’s travel advisories, it does note that while there is no travel advisory in place for Bahrain “exercise a high degree of caution”… “due to protests, demonstrations and the threat of terrorist attacks”. So they’re aware that ‘something’ is going on.

In an interview on December 16, 2013, questioned about the Canadian military exports to Bahrain given its human rights record Baird answered, in part, “I’m not sure there’s a lot of Canadians that are concerned about it.” Really now? For readers who are not entirely familiar with Bahrain’s human rights record:

On September 19, 2013 Ms. Pilay, UN High Commissioner, noted that, “the deep polarization of society and the harsh clampdown on human rights defenders and peaceful protesters remain a serious concern. She reiterated her calls on authorities to fully comply with its international human rights commitments, including respect for the rights to freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association”. She “also urged greater cooperation with the Government, which cancelled a scheduled visit of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, stalled on an OHCHR follow-up mission to the country, and has yet to implement recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry.”

On the same day that Baird casually dismissed concerns, and claimed Canadians don’t really care, Amnesty International accused the Bahraini regime of “systematically torturing children: Scores of children arrested on suspicion of participating in anti-government protests – including some as young as 13 – were blindfolded, beaten and tortured in detention over the past two years the organization said. Others were threatened with rape in order to extract forced confessions.”

“At a side event of the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva,” in September 2013, “speakers from Turkey, Bahrain, and Pakistan were among those describing attacks on health care workers for treating politically unpopular groups, or for witnessing human rights violations. Other recent attacks have targeted vaccination teams and ambulances. The attacks often receive little attention and no one is held accountable.”

“It is really strange timing that Canada would be increasing a sale of arms or military equipment, let’s say, at this moment when Bahrain has been involved in violently repressing its own peaceful democracy demonstrators,” said Roland Paris, director of the Centre of International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa. Also interesting- on the issue of timing- is that on the final day of the Manama dialogue, the Crown Prince met with his cabinet not to loosen restrictions or address human rights violations but to “tighten penalties on those who offend His Majesty the King.”

Walter Dorn, the chair of international affairs studies at the Canadian Forces College, puts forth, “”It would be shocking if Canada supplied arms to suppress a democratic movement. The Industry Canada data table doesn’t list the types of weapons that are sold. It doesn’t give any details so we are left to wonder what the weapons are,” and, “whether weapons from Canada may have found their way into the hands of rights abusers, be they despotic governments, rebels or criminals.” Both Dorn and Angela Kane, the UN’s high representative for disarmament affairs, urge the Canadian government to stop delaying and sign the UN Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Contrary to Baird’s spurious claims that it might affect Canadian gun owners at home (the United States signed on for goodness sake) what it might very well affect is the sales of arms to repressive regimes.

Please (please) join me in writing to Foreign Minister Baird and your MP to tell them that you do care, contrary to Baird’s claims, about the sale of Canadian arms to Bahrain. Cc the official opposition, the Liberals, and Elizabeth May so that all of our representatives are clear on where you stand. We all have busy lives, arguably too busy to address every dirty thing that our government makes the time to do, but if it were you, if it were your children surely you’d have the time to plead with a foreign government not to supply the Bahraini government with more means of repression and killing. 

John Baird
2249 Carling Ave Suite 418
Ottawa, Ontario
K2B 7E9
bairdj@parl.gc.ca

List of Canadian MPs:
http://www.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx

Say What?

I’m taking a course on Cyber Security and Human Rights, which has so far necessitated a great deal of research on human rights (naturally) as defined by the UN Charter, the signatories, violations, the International Criminal Court, the Security Council, as well as a host of issues around privacy and other rights as they pertain to cyber space. Here are some (fairly well known) facts that I thought that were worth passing along anyway, for those who don’t already know:

The UN has six principle organs: a General Assembly, a Security Council, an Economic and Social Council, a Trusteeship Council, an International Court of Justice (ICC), and a Secretariat.

Of these organs, only the Security Council has the authority to make decisions that member states are obligated to implement (under the Charter). The five permanent members of the Security Council are the United States, China, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and France. (There are an additional ten non-permanent seats that rotate, by election, on two year terms.)

The International Criminal Court deals with only the most heinous crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression (i.e. invasion, occupation, etc) as defined by the Rome Statute. The ICC has a very limited scope but there is (as would be expected) widespread agreement that these are crimes are of great international concern- 122 state parties are signatories.

The mandate of the Security Council is to “maintain peace and security“. And yet three of the five permanent members- the United States, Russia, and China– are not signatories to the Rome Statute, and so are not subject to prosecution by the ICC for the crimes of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression.

That’s all. I don’t have anything to say about it. The joke kind of tells itself, doesn’t it?

Security Council Meeting  -UN photo # 564526

Security Council Meeting -UN photo # 564526

You Are Not Alone

mlk-quote

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Have you ever witnessed a school fight? The kind where the school bully or tough guy picks a kid they figure they have a good chance of beating and a crowd of kids gather round yelling, “fight, fight, fight!” and then watch one guy (or girl) pummel the other. The kind where afterwards, loser still on the ground, the crowd starts to break up, some of them following the winner, laughing and slapping each other on the back, and a few maybe step forward when the coast is clear to hand the loser their knapsack and help her/him to his feet.

The beating is pretty serious stuff, and I don’t deny the physical aspect of it, but I’ve always felt that even worse than that are all of the onlookers who either cheer it on or stand back for fear of taking a beating themselves, or fear of being ostracized for being on the losing side. That feeling of being surrounded by people and yet completely alone, abandoned… I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that has to be worse than the physical assault. I got involved in a lot of fights, on and off the playground, because I couldn’t fathom the thought that someone would feel that utterly alone if there was anything that I could do about it. I won’t deny there were a couple that I steered clear of, but the feelings afterward- of having contributed to that person’s feeling of complete abandonment- were enough to ensure it didn’t happen more than those couple of times. Getting punched in the skull was much easier to recover from.

I have been like that for as long as I remember. I have lived by the motto that you will not be alone so long as I am here long before I understood what a motto was. My feelings on that have never changed. I don’t care whether we have anything in common, whether we know each other, whether I even necessarily ever want to see a person again- if a person is being made to feel alone, I will step up and stand beside them.

As I grew up the need to get into a physical altercation to defend a person lessened, but the pack mentality that I witnessed as a child remains unchanged as far as I can tell. That need to be on the winning (or ‘popular’) side seems to stay with a lot of us, as does the need for acceptance seem to outweigh the importance of empathy, or even the ability to empathize I suppose, though I’ve noticed the whole ‘empathy movement’ enjoys some popularity amongst many who choose simply to theorize about it, or post ‘empathy memes’.

This may seem unrelated at first, but over the years I have tried to avoid some of the behaviours that I abhor. Notice that nothing about this statement indicates complete success. As you might imagine, I retained some of my childhood scrappiness and carried that forward in some unfortunate ways for a while- meeting bad behaviour with worse behaviour. But as I matured I learned a few things. I don’t need to engage every time someone attempts to engage me. I can choose what is important. I can meet intolerance with tolerance. I am more persuasive if I don’t say exactly what I’m thinking, and instead couch it in more comfortable language. And if I start a sentence with, “asshole”, that asshole is probably going to tune out everything else that I say.

I don’t deny the value in the lessons I’ve learned over the years but recently I’ve come to believe that I’ve taken some of it too far. In an attempt to practice tolerance, acceptance, and patience, I’ve compromised on one of the values that remains critically important to me. That you will not be alone so long as I am here. I have not engaged with certain issues because I felt there was no way to do so “politely” or “without hurting a person’s feelings” or offending their values. I have stood by the “everyone’s entitled to their opinion” defense even when the remarks or actions are indefensible. And my spirit has suffered as a result of that.

I have never grown out of, or been able to shake (though I’ve tried at times) that instant connection that I have with the bullied, or the oppressed, or those otherwise on the “outside”. I have my reasons, however childish, for hiding my tears and crying alone about the suffering that I not only see but somehow manage to take into myself but the fact is- it still hurts me deeply enough to reduce me to tears. And I think, however good the intentions, this attempt at ‘growth’ through being polite, or kind, or political has actually put me in the uncomfortable position of being complicit. I’m not saying that I don’t see the value in not walking around spouting every obnoxious thing that comes to mind, or fighting every battle without evaluation- but I think one can take “being above” a situation too far.

There are any number of MLK Jr. quotes that would easily fit here but, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter,” comes to mind. Too many times I have been silent when words mattered. Too many times I have tried to politely reason with adult versions of those same bullies who wanted nothing more than to crush their targets. Too many times I have thought that a movement, or speech, or person was so obviously obtuse that I needn’t say or do anything, assuming that it/they would never gain ground, only to watch their popularity rise and rise and gain ground. And too many times there must have been people who felt that no one cared, because I- and others- said nothing.

The outpouring of support for notorious bigot Phil Roberston, of Duck Dynasty, might have been something I let pass without much more than a comment- but for the fact that I personally know people who came out in support of him. And for the fact that we share many of the same friends, some of whom are gay, or are persons of color. And I will try to find a positive here- thank you, for your appalling lack of sensitivity to entire communities of people, to your own friends (and possibly family), because it helped finalize the decision for me that I will not be silent again.

You didn’t stop to think how it feels, to be ostracized for who you are, to be diminished, to be hated. You didn’t consider how it must feel to belong to the LGBT community where youth suicide rates are at 28%, compared to 4% of heterosexual youth in Canada. You probably didn’t think how it must feel to have family members who have been jailed, beaten, or killed for the color of their skin. You didn’t think of a lot of things but perhaps most hurtful of all- you didn’t think what it must feel like to have your own friends come out in support of a celebrity who hates you and everyone like you. Because it isn’t difficult enough to live in a society that tells you that you are not of equal value.

I did think about all of those things. I thought about all of those things and was overwhelmed by the sheer ignorance of it all. And from behind the veneer of the careful adult I’ve become emerged the girl who never let fear stop her from jumping into a fight. So to those who would try to warn me that I might offend, and to those who thought they might have an impact playing the victim now- I’m already in. I am not afraid, and if you thought this was going to be easy- think again. And to my brothers and sisters here and around the world- I am by your side and will fight until there is no more fighting to do. You are not alone.